If you want to see where your kids will be spending their time in the future, take a look at Gemini Mobileâ€™s platform that lets carriers offer their subscribers a social networking community on their phones. Essentially, the service is a mobile community â€“ a MySpace on the go, but for more virtual reality. The platform is called eXplo, and it powers SoftBank Mobileâ€™s S! Town. S! Town is pretty neat. A subscriber can have an avatar that walks around this virtual world. In the demo I was given, Michael Tao, Gemini Mobileâ€™s CTO, had a black anime as his avatar. His avatar strolled through S!Townâ€™s virtual town center, which was quite deserted, given that it was 4 am in the morning in Japan, where this service is available. At first, it seemed pretty silly and useless to be walking around this deserted town. But then Michael bumped into several females (or at least one might think they were female because their avatars were female). Michael tried to befriend them, while at the same time clicking onto a user profile to find out more about this person. All members have profiles that can be made public to the community. All community members can roam around this virtual town and meet other members. Watching this interaction was a bit frightening, especially when Michael could â€“ with just a click of a button -- find out more about the person whom he was interacting with. When I was a little girl, I played tea with some dolls around a mini table. My future little girl will likely be playing tea on her mobile phone with (hopefully) other little girls. So, what's the business model? Consumers don't pay for the service. Rather they can buy content in the town. There are also advertisements on billboards in the virtual town. In 2007, the service is expected to be deployed with U.S. and European carriers.
I recall years ago when Steve Case said that those who dig for gold
make more money than those supplying the picks and shovels. As the
co-founder and former CEO of America Online, he was bias. But he has a
point. These days if MySpace and YouTube are the ones digging for gold,
their sales to News Corp (nws) and Google (goog) show that when you hit
gold, you hit it big.
But the battle to
become a top video or social network destination site is fierce. The
landscape is littered with sleep-deprived, burned-out founders and CEOs
of dozens of startup video-sharing or social network sites, as well as
those working at veteran Internet sites. So despite the rich rewards in finding that pot of gold,
some startups are avoiding this costly war, opting instead to provide
the tools and platforms to socialize and video-rize the world.
Essentially what they're saying is: Rather than fight with MySpace and
YouTube, and the dozens of others, why not just provide the picks and
shovels to others who want at it? What's the result of that?
sure, but I can only imagine that my inbox will be filled with "new
friend" requests in a video format some day. Oh, joy.
So, who are these tools and shovel companies? This week, two young companies -- DAVE.tv and vSocial -- unveiled
software services to provide companies and individuals a way to have a
video and text blog platform that also includes social networking
features. (Note: I use blog to define a Web-based publishing platform
that allows anyone to contribute.) I think it's an excellent idea. As
many of my readers and viewers know I love the marriage of both: The
blogging capabilities in video or text allow for anyone to contribute
from a staffed producer and reporter to the audience or the user. The
social network features allow anyone to market and distribute the
sure, there are others who already provide white-label video
solutions, such as Feedroom, Brightcove, VideoEgg, Maven Networks, and
Narrowstep. Even Cisco Systems (csco) is offering video-capabilities to
businesses. But none of the aforementioned companies (besides DAVE.tv
and vSocial) are offering the social networking features that let the
with one another, make friends, share and build affinity groups.
These are the features that give the audience control to
manage their worlds, or in MySpace parlance, their spaces.
That said, it's only a matter of
time before social network features (connect, make friends, share,
vote, rank, etc.) are commodities incorporated into blog publishing
platforms. It's only a matter of time before all the companies I
mentioned above announce that they too will offer the same services and
tools. For now, they don't. Or if they do, they're in stealth mode.
Facebook is going to open up to the masses. Some rabble-rouser Facebook members are upset. But Facebook has no choice. Even though it has 9.5 million members, that pales in comparison to the 100-plus million members that News Corp's MySpace has. But here's the silver lining... well sort of.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerber is likely learning a lessson. And, other Internet startups can learn from him as well. In the Web 2.0 world, control has been shifted over to the audience, or "community." Web 2.0 companies enjoy the fruits of that community labor. Web 2.0 companies haven't paid for the content created either.
But everything comes at a cost. And, the cost in the Web 2.0 world may be less control.
I had the opportunity to moderate a panel with Yahoo's Usama Fayyad, Google's Peter Norvig, Ask.com's CEO Jim Lanzone, and Quigo CEO Mike Yavnoditte. This panel discussion could have gone in many directions. The one that would have been most fascinating to me would have been one that was most philosophical. Unfortunately, that's not what the audience would have wanted. But after the panel I did ask the panelists to comment on what the data says about society. Here's what Norvig said via email:
"The data says our society is very diverse, with many interests
andmuch knowledge. It also says that some of us lie
and cheat, that someof us are lazy, and some are
industrious. Since we don't ask peopletheir age, we
don't know anything for sure about generations, althoughwe can guess by, say, that the younger generation is doing more searches than their parents."
How do you think the Internet is changing culture and society?